Saturday, April 25, 2009

Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change

Indigenous Peoples Demand Greater Role in Climate Debate

By Stephen Leahy*

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Apr 20 (Tierramérica) - While indigenous peoples from around the world are meeting in this Alaskan city to seek a greater role in global climate negotiations, the rapidly warming Arctic is forcing some Inuit villages to be relocated.

"We have centuries of experience in adapting to the climate and our traditional lifestyles have very low carbon footprints," Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an indigenous leader from the Philippines and chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, told Tierramérica.

Carbon-based gases are the principal cause of the greenhouse effect, which leads to climate change. The excessive release of these gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, comes from human activities: the combustion of fossil fuels in industry and transportation, and emissions from livestock production and deforestation.

Some 400 indigenous people, including Bolivian President Evo Morales and observers from 80 nations, are gathered in Anchorage, Alaska for the Apr. 20-24 U.N.-affiliated Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change.

They will discuss and synthesise ways that traditional knowledge can be used to both mitigate and adapt to climate change.

"Indigenous peoples have contributed the least to the global problem of climate change, but will almost certainly bear the greatest brunt of its impact," said Patricia Cochran, chair of both the Inuit Circumpolar Council and the April Summit.

In her opinion, indigenous peoples are leaders and experts when it comes to the climate debate. Any dialogue or negotiations will be far richer and productive with their participation, she said.

But indigenous peoples are also on the front lines when it comes to climate change impacts, Cochran told Tierramérica.

The village of Newtok, about 800 kilometres east of Anchorage, is the first of several villages in need of relocation due to climate change. Because of higher average temperatures, intensifying river flow and melting permafrost are destroying homes and infrastructure, forcing 320 residents to relocate to a higher site 15 km west, at an expected cost in the tens of millions of dollars.

Five other Alaskan Inuit settlements are in urgent need of relocation, including Shishmaref (population 560) and Kivalina (377), where autumn storm waves are no longer contained by shore-fast ice, leading to severe coastal erosion. Dozens of similar settlements are considered threatened.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the regions most affected - such as the Arctic, Caribbean and Amazon - are where most of the indigenous people live, says Sam Johnston of the Tokyo-based United Nations University, a co-sponsor of the Summit.

Around the world, at least 5,000 distinct groups of indigenous peoples have been identified in more than 70 countries, with a combined global population estimated at 300 to 350 million, representing about six percent of humanity.

Because of their long cultural and spiritual connection to the land, oceans and wildlife, indigenous peoples have a lot to offer, Johnston said in an interview.

"The world owes it to both the indigenous peoples and itself to pay greater heed to the opinions of these communities and to the wisdom of ages-old traditional knowledge," he said.

The major goal of the Summit is to help strengthen the indigenous communities' participation in and articulate messages and recommendations to the December conference of parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Copenhagen.

There, the world's governments will negotiate a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol (which expires in 2012) to reduce carbon emissions and to create an adaptation fund to help poor countries.

The indigenous Summit will conclude in Anchorage on Friday with a declaration and action plan, and a call for world governments to fully include indigenous peoples in any post-Kyoto climate change regime adopted in Copenhagen.

Indigenous peoples currently have no formal role at the climate talks, although native representatives were part of Bolivia's delegation to a series of preparatory meetings earlier this month in Bonn, Germany.

Ideally, indigenous peoples would have a formal advisory role, as they currently do under the U.N. Convention on Biodiversity, said Tauli-Corpuz.

"Unfortunately, no government has been willing to push for this under the UNFCCC," she said.

The "Anchorage Declaration" will be signed by President Evo Morales, who is of Aymara origin; Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, president of the U.N. General Assembly; and Danish Parliamentarian Juliane Henningsen, representing Greenland, says Cochrane.

Issues like reducing deforestation and boosting massive re-forestation efforts can have major impacts on indigenous peoples, and it is vital that indigenous rights are acknowledged and respected in any final climate agreement, said Tauli-Corpuz.

But, warned the UNU's Johnston, bilateral discussions, especially between China and the United States, are heating up ahead of the Copenhagen meet, and may push indigenous peoples' involvement to the sidelines.

(*This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.) __________________________________________________________
Copyright © 2009 IPS-Inter Press Service

Native Rights News is making this material from IPS-Inter Press Service available in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine codified at Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107: This article is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information. Distribution of this material is for research and educational purposes that will promote social and economic justice and benefit society.
Native Rights News (NRN) is published by the Alliance for Indigenous Rights, a nonprofit corporation owned and operated by Temple Beit Shem Tov as part of its Peace and Justice Ministry.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Extractive Industries Boycott International Expert Workshop on Violations of Human Rights and Environment

[Forwarded by Western Shoshone Defense Project]

28 March 2009

International Experts Deliberate on Piles of Human rights and Environment Violations of Extractive Industries

MANILA, Philippines – Officials of the United Nations system, multilateral institutions such as the European Commission, the World Bank, ADB, Member States of the UN, international experts, indigenous peoples and other organizations attending the International Expert Workshop on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, Corporate Accountability and the Extractive Industries have started deliberating yesterday on piles of serious issues surrounding the Indigenous Peoples all around the world, and in their bid to find better and lasting solutions to stop large-scale oil, gas and mining companies from further destroying indigenous lands, the environment, and contributing to the alarming problem of global warming.

“Although there have been substantial developments in the promotion and protection of the human rights of indigenous peoples in recent years, indigenous peoples have continued to suffer violations of their human rights on a regular basis. This is especially the case in the context of extractive industries, such as mineral, oil and gas extraction, which disproportionately impact indigenous peoples,” said Carol Pollack of the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples Issues during her opening address.

The Experts and participants are expected to craft stronger recommendations within the three-day workshop that will help solve the problems of the Indigenous Peoples’ rights worldwide and mitigate the effect of climate change which is mainly caused by extractive industries, particularly oil, gas and coal extraction.

Among others, the officials will try to find better mechanisms to force extractive industries into complying with relevant provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which includes self determination, right to traditional lands, right to be secure in subsistence and development, right to conservation and protection of the environment and productive capacity of lands and the often violated free, prior and informed consent provision.

“We have lived within nation states which established norms and laws according to their interest. We have suffered disproportionately from the impact of extractive industries as our territories are home to over sixty percent of the world's most coveted mineral resources,” the Indigenous Peoples’ said in the final [Manila] Declaration [attached English Spanish] crafted after the International Conference on Indigenous Peoples and Extractive Industries. “The activities of these corporations have led to the worst forms of environmental degradation, human rights violations and land dispossession,” they added. Although, the extractive industries must play a vital role in addressing these problems, those invited opted not to send their representatives to the international expert workshop, to which Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, a Kankana-ey from the Cordillera and the current chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), expressed disappointment over failure to do so.

In a statement sent to Tauli-Corpuz, the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM), a CEO-led organization representing many of the world's leading mining and metals companies as well as regional, national and commodity associations, said that “it has been working on Indigenous Peoples issues for several years including; producing a Mining and Indigenous People's Review (2005, holding two roundtables on mining and Indigenous Peoples (2005, 2008), seeking legal reviews of FPIC, approving a Position Statement outlining our member's policy on Indigenous Peoples and recently we have produced a first draft of a Good Practice Guidance on Mining and Indigenous Peoples.”

Along with ICMM, transnational mining corporations such as Rio Tinto, among others, were also invited to sit in the international expert dialogue. However, they declined saying that, “In view of the global financial crisis, we are cutting on costs and prioritize activities that are essential.”

Tauli-Corpuz said, “They did not see the importance of attending a dialogue with the World's Indigenous Peoples, where 60 to 70 percent of the world's minerals, oil and gas are found in their territories. It is sad that they undermined the importance of this event.

“It is in the interest of the extractive industries corporations to listen to indigenous peoples affected by mining, oil and gas projects so that there would be less conflict, less human rights violations and more equitable-sharing and sustainable use of resources if a dialogue with them is to happen,” she added.

For inquiries, please contact: Jo Villanueva
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Native Rights News is making this material available in accordance with a Press Release. This article is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information. Distribution of this material is for research and educational purposes that will promote social and economic justice and benefit society.
Native Rights News (NRN) is published by the Alliance for Indigenous Rights, a nonprofit corporation owned and operated by Temple Beit Shem Tov as part of its Peace and Justice Ministry.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sign-On Letter to Canadian Government Calls for Action to Stop Abuses Committed by Extractive Industries

[Editor's Note: Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, current chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) , is urging organizations and individuals to add their support and signature to her letter to Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper. In that letter, Ms. Tauli-Corpus expresses her disappointment in Canada's past and current policies vis a vis the abuses committed by Canadian transnational corporations against Indigenous Peoples and the environment. She asks that the Canadian government take specific actions to curb such abuses and hold the Canadian extractive industry to account. Following are both letters.

Alliance for Indigenous Rights is signing on to the letter, and we urge all NGO's and individuals concerned about protecting Indigenous Peoples rights and the environment to do the same. -- Perry H. Chesnut, Editor NRN]

Sign-on Letter to Canadian Government

FYI. If you wish to sign-on, please respond directly to Thanks.

----- Original Message -----

From: "vicky tauli-corpuz"
Sent: March 30, 2009
Subject: Letter to Canadian Government

Dear Friends,

At the Expert Group Meeting on Extractive Industries, Indigenous and Corporate Social Responisbility a discussion was held regarding the response of the government to the series of roundtables held in Canada which looked into the issue of Extractives. Obviously, the government has not accepted the recommendations. So we drafted a letter [below] which contains our disappointment with the results. Please read this and if you want to sign on please send your name and your organization [to]. If you do not have an organization, [please sign] as an individual.


Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
Executive Director, Tebtebba
Convenor, Asia Indigenous Women's Network
1 Roman Ayson Road, Baguio City, Philippines, 2600
Telephone: 63-74-4447703 Fax: 63-74-4439459 mobile: 63-91-75317811

------------ --------- --------- ------

29 March 2009
Manila , Philippines Peoples' Rights
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa , ON
K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister Harper,

It is with great regret that we, the undersigned participants of the International Expert Workshop on Indigenous Peoples' Rights, Corporate Accountability and Extractive Industries, and the International Conference on Extractive Industries and Indigenous Peoples, note the adoption of the new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector. It is a strategy that falls far short of upholding Canada 's international commitments on human rights, Indigenous Peoples and the environment. By advising on existing voluntary guidelines, instead of imposing binding, regulatory requirements, it is one that will do little to stop abuses by Canadian extractive companies from continuing unabated and unpunished.

Among the Indigenous Peoples present at these two meetings - the first was organized by the Tebtebba Foundation and the second by United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) - are those who earlier in the decade shared personal reports of abuse by Canadian mining companies with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT). In 2005, as you know, that Committee responded by calling on the Government of Canada to "establish clear legal norms to ensure that Canadian companies and residents are held accountable when there is evidence of environmental and/or human rights violations associated with the activities of Canadian mining companies."

In "Building the Canadian Advantage" that recommendation has been ignored, as have the groundbreaking consensus recommendations that resulted from the National CSR Roundtable process. Together these recommendations represent the views of national Parliamentarians, civil society, Indigenous Peoples, industry, labour, socially responsible investors, academics and members of the Canadian public. Given this breadth of support, it is disappointing that the Conservative Government of Canada has chosen to so freely set aside the progressive outputs of democratic and officially mandated dialogue.

Particularly alarming in the new CSR Strategy is the absence of an independent and empowered ombudsperson to investigate and respond to the concerns of affected communities, and the lack of provisions for sanctions and withdrawal of public support when extractive companies fail to comply with human rights and environmental standards. Furthermore, an appointed CSR counselor, who requires the consent of the company involved to undertake a review, and who may target his or her review at both communities and their allies, offers no real recourse for communities that have been adversely affected by Canadian extractive companies, and raises serious questions about corporate co-optation of this instrument, as well as fears that the review process may be used against Indigenous Peoples.

Over the course of the last seven days, numerous participants at the International Conference on Extractive Industries and Indigenous Peoples and the International Expert Workshop on Indigenous Peoples' Rights, Corporate Accountability and Extractive Industries have made it clear that the abuse of Indigenous Peoples' rights to lands, territories and resources at the hands of Canadian extractive companies is ongoing. This reality once again underscores the failure of voluntary, industry-driven initiatives to protect human rights and reinforces the need for extra-territorial regulation of extractive industries, especially in the context of weak governance in host countries.

It is our position that the "Canadian Advantage" has already been established in the global extractive sector and it has been established at the expense of the environment and of Indigenous Peoples. The advantage that has been lost is Canada 's reputation as a leader on human rights.

As these important meetings draws to a close in Manila, we call on the Government of Canada to take immediate steps to bring its CSR Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector into line with the recommendations of the SCFAIT Report and the Report of the Advisory Group to the National Roundtables on CSR and the Canadian Extractive Sector in Developing Countries.

It is also critical that any effort by the Canadian government reflects respect for Canada's obligations under such agreements as the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as well as internationally recognized rights that have been entrenched in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). As you are aware, UNDRIP was endorsed by the Canadian House of Commons last year and in 2007 the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination' s (CERD) concluding observations to Canada noted: "with concern the reports of adverse effects of economic activities connected with the exploitation of natural resources in countries outside Canada by transnational corporations registered in Canada on the right to land, health, living environment and the way of life of indigenous peoples living in these regions." CERD concluded by recommending that Canada "explore ways to hold transnational corporations registered in Canada accountable."

Until such a time as full regulatory measures governing Canadian extractive companies can be enacted, we further encourage Canadian Parliamentarians, including members of the Conservative Party of Canada, to consider passing the proposed Bill C-300, an Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries. Over the short-term this Act would effectively supplement the Canadian CSR Strategy by requiring publicly-funded extractive companies to uphold standards like the International Finance Corporation' s Performance Standards on Social and Environmental Sustainability, with Ministers empowered to review complaints and required to report back to Parliament. Particularly welcome are the suggested amendments contained within Bill C-300, which would lead to the withdrawal of support by Export Development Canada and the cessation of investment by the Canadian Pension Plan where extractive operations are inconsistent with the guidelines that are endorsed in section 5 of the Act.

Ultimately, we request that you reconsider your limited CSR response and commit to measures that genuinely address the serious human rights and environmental abuses associated with Canadian extractive industry companies.

For your information, we have attached the Manila Declaration, the document that resulted from the International Conference on Extractive Industries and Indigenous Peoples, and will forward the report of the Expert Group Workshop when it is finalized.

We look forward to receiving your reply and request that it be directed to the Secretariat for the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, so that they might in turn forward it to participants of the Manila meetings.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns, which echo those raised by over 100 participants from 35 countries.

Institutional Signatories (as of 30 March 2009)
Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago ( Indonesia )
Cordillera Peoples Alliance ( Philippines )
Kanak Agency for Development ( New Caledonia )
Centre for Environmental Research and Development ( Papua New Guinea )
Western Shoshone Defense Project ( USA )
PIPLinks - Indigenous Peoples Links ( UK )
Tebtebba Foundation (Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education) ( Philippines and UK )

Individual Signatories (as of 30 March 2009)
Mr. Brian Wyatt ( Australia )
Ms. Urantsooj Gombosuren ( Mongolia )
Mr. Cathal Doyle ( Ireland )
Ms. Meaghen Simms ( Canada )
Ms. Elisa Canqui Mollo ( Bolivia )
Mr. Luis Vittor ( Peru )

Native Rights News is making this material available in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine codified at Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107: This article is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information. Distribution of this material is for research and educational purposes that will promote social and economic justice and benefit society.
Native Rights News (NRN) is published by the Alliance for Indigenous Rights, a nonprofit corporation owned and operated by Temple Beit Shem Tov as part of its Peace and Justice Ministry.

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